Bogle Vineyards 2011 California Old Vine Zinfandel ($11), our Wine of the Week, is big, bold and intense, with a focused concentration of black fruit and swirls of vanilla, juniper berries, toast and topsoil mixed with brambles. Rich raspberry flavors — think raspberry jam — and sweet spices use this foundation like an acrobat uses a trampoline, with exuberance and buoyancy. These flavors, you could say, have lift.
The wine is affordable, approachable and sophisticated, all at the same time. At $11, it is a real bargain.
This zinfandel is an easy companion with pizza, spaghetti and meatballs, sausage and polenta, hamburgers, roasted root vegetables and mushroom-bacon ragout. The layers of spice, especially the juniper berries, also make it a lovely companion to venison stew, wild boar sausage and wild duck.
For today's recipe, I'm inspired by our cold nights and by a traditional Shepherd's Pie I enjoyed at a dear friend's Christmas celebration. This version is closer to the English version than that one, as it calls for ground lamb instead of ground beef. Ground duck works, well, too. If you use ground beef, try to make it grass-fed.
English-style Shepherd's Pie
Makes 4 to 6 servings
3 large potatoes, such as German Butterball, peeled and diced
4 tablespoons butter, plus more to taste
1/2 cup half-and-half, plus more as needed
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, cut into small dice
2 to 3 carrots, peeled and cut into small dice
2 to 3 parsnips, peeled and cut into small dice
3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
— Pinch or two of ground cinnamon
1 and 1/2 pounds ground lamb
— Black pepper in a mill
1 and 1/2 cups chicken stock, duck stock or beef stock
1 tablespoon double-concentrated tomato paste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
6 to 8 ounces grated Cheddar cheese